The Baby Imposition
Dear Annie: I find myself in an uncomfortable situation with a friend who just moved to our town this year with her husband and baby. Besides her two sisters who live here, we’re the only friends they have so far. I feel that she’s been taking advantage of me by asking for constant help with her baby. Her sister usually watches him once a week but has been tied up recently, so my friend asked me for help watching him last week for six hours. I said yes, thinking it would be a one-time favor. I’m not a baby person, and although this particular baby is very calm, I can’t get any work done when he’s awake (as I’m sure any mother knows).
Yesterday she asked me whether I would watch him again this week and the week after. I felt stunned that she was asking again so soon. I didn’t know what to say and would have felt extremely uncomfortable turning her down at that moment, so I said yes once again. However, I’m extremely frustrated with her because it feels as if she thinks that her time and work are more important than mine or that because I work from home, she can use me as a free baby-sitting service. I have other friends who are mothers, even single mothers, yet I’ve never been asked for constant child care favors.
I know that I need to put a stop to this now so that it doesn’t continue to delay my work schedule or ruin our friendship. How do I explain to her in a polite but firm manner how I feel about her repeatedly asking for this favor, and how do I express that my not wanting to do this doesn’t mean I don’t want to be her friend? — Not the Nanny
Dear Not the Nanny: “No” is the magic word that will set you free — free from undue obligations, free from regret and free from resentment. “As adorable and calm as your baby is, watching him is interfering with my productivity,” “I’m sorry, but I can’t keep baby-sitting” or any other polite variation of “no” will do just fine. Just be simple, direct and, most of all, prompt. Don’t let fear hold you up. Your friend won’t get angry with you for setting boundaries, and if she does, she wasn’t much of a friend to begin with.
Dear Annie: This is not a question but just my take on individuals who use excuses for being rude, being mean or exhibiting overall bad or even dangerous behavior to others or themselves.
I do understand that some people have certain conditions — e.g., attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar affective disorder and schizophrenia –and some blame their parents for a terrible childhood. I sympathize with those individuals.
But do all those people who are rude, are mean or exhibit bad behavior to themselves or others always have to have some “condition”? I think not! We all need to take responsibility for our own actions instead of blaming whatever or whomever. Maybe if they couldn’t blame it on something or somebody, they wouldn’t do it.
Some people are just mean and rude and show bad behavior because that’s the way they are, period. — Tired of Excuses
Dear Tired of Excuses: Though I don’t know exactly what prompted your letter, I agree that we should take ownership of our behavior. By that same token, though you can’t control whether another person is rude, you can control your actions and decide how or whether to engage with a person. When someone’s rude, consider it an opportunity to build your character. Walk away and you’ll be a better person than you were.